Cleo, Eve and Aunty Winnie live together in London. They are all survivors of female genital mutilation – it is their wounds that led them to one another.
Written by British actor and playwright, Gloria Williams, Bullet Hole focuses on 20-something Cleo’s story. She received her “gift” at the age of seven, and has struggled to deal with the way it has affected her physical and mental health ever since. She spends most days in bed, clutching Happiness, an old doll. At times she is incapable of speech.
Williams’ writing is vivid. It doesn’t shy away from the cruel and remorseless detail of the practice of FGM, and is both explicit and unapologetic in doing so – her intention to condemn this old tradition is clear.
The play also examines what it means to be a woman and the conflict between cultural traditions and 21st century life. The narrative does at times feels cluttered; some subplots are dropped, others not given the breathing space to be sufficiently explored.
The women of the story are performed with intensity by Williams, warmth by Doreene Blackstock, and severity by Anni Domingo. There is some misplaced humour in Lara Genovese’s production, while the set design – a studio flat with a kitchen at one end and a bedroom at the other – occasionally alienates the audience.
What comes across most memorably though is the healing power of strong female companionship in the face of a shared trauma.